Here we go!
Please come join the process of making this film and find amazing articles at:
Thanks for your support!
Here we go!
Please come join the process of making this film and find amazing articles at:
Thanks for your support!
CM: I guess it’s personal. I wanted to quit acting and be a director when I was 22, but my mom was sick (she had Cancer) and begged me not to. I couldn’t deny her needs, so I waited. After she died, I tried again, but experienced a little betrayal from a woman I was working with on a performance art piece. I had really put my heart into this piece, been writing it for years, put in my own money. The entire concept was mine. After the show ended she took the concept, got a grant for it, and made a whole second show out of it (and didn’t tell me). I was really heartbroken. When I found out, I asked her, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” She claimed she had, but she really hadn’t. It was still total artistic thievery and a complete betrayal of a friendship that I had held as deep and meaningful. The pain of that event stopped me from trying to direct for a long, long time. Sixteen years, to be precise.
CM: You made two films in 2013. What compelled you to get into film?
CM: To answer this question properly, I’d have to go back and talk about what happened on a soaps that I was working on because honestly, it hadn’t crossed my mind to direct a film. I was an actor. I wrote songs and poems. I went to art school. I was trying to find both myself and a person I could make a home with… but directing film seemed far out of my reach, so I didn’t even consider it.
When they killed off my character on AMC (Dixie) at the end of 2006 it was a real motivator for me to reconsider my future. And for the record (again) killing Dixie was a move to get the fans shocked and surprised in that “anything can happen to your favorite characters, so stay tuned,” sort of way. And as most people know, there was a huge uproar and they asked me back in 2009 and offered me a two year contract in 2011. Then they asked me to do the internet version of the show in 2013. I was even on the cover of Soap Digest in 2009 with the line “We Screwed Up: What Went Wrong and How AMC is Making it Right” under my face. These are the facts.
But that event really did hit me hard. I felt like I’d lost my family, the place that “had my back no matter what.” So I had to really dig inside myself and find a new path.
I do think a lot of women have been afraid to speak out, but for many, right now we are at a tipping point where the need to be heard is stronger than the fear of staying silent.
CM: I’ve probably have one of the thickest skins you’ll ever meet. Like, rhino thick. I know I come off as a pretty gentle person, but when things get tough, I’m the person you want around. My favorite saying is “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.” But I’ve got feelings, you know? I have a heart.
CM: But good things have come out of that adversity. You continued to work on soaps, and have had a lot of recognition for your films, even a “Honorable Mention for Best Director.” That must have meant a lot.
CM: It absolutely did. It was a real validation that I had the two things directors need most: determination and vision. And I experienced real respect on those shoots. The crew I worked with were all men and they were terrific. We had a great time working together. Next time, I am going to hire more women behind the camera, because now I know how many fantastic women there are who deserve the opportunity.
CM: You are making a documentary about women filmmakers. Why a doc and not another short, or even a full length narrative feature?
CM: I think the reason behind me talking to women filmmakers (as well as women in TV and theater) has a great deal to do with my looking for strong, creative, female leaders that I can look up to and learn from. My Mom died when I was 25, and my Dad was an alcoholic and almost never around… and he died when I was 35… so I’ve really had to search to find people who were beyond me in their life experience and understanding, you know, role models. School only takes you so far. It’s experience you need to listen to. I really needed to hear from people who were DOING the work I looked up to. And I’m so glad I did. It’s been an amazing journey so far.
CM: What is the purpose of the film?
CM: Ultimately, the goal is to shine light on these artists ability and what makes them persist in creating meaningful stories, against dismal odds. I’m not looking to deny how bad it’s been, but I feel there’s a lot of press out there about the limitations and obstacles. And yes, things have got to change in so many ways… But I feel like the kind of stories these particular women are telling are real game changers.
For example, Leah Meyerhoff digs deep into the interior life of a teenage girl with her coming-of-age film “I Believe in Unicorns.” I mean, when have you seen a film about a teenage girls INTERIOR life?? C’mon. That’s pretty rare. Deborah Kampmeier explores the importance of becoming whole again after losing your innocence (not pure, but WHOLE, a really important distinction) with “Houndog,” and is digging even deeper into feminine power and spirit with “SPLit.” Meera Meron explores the raw bonding within female friendships on a whole new level with “Farah Goes Bang,” and just directed the first film about women on Wall Street in 27 years, “Equity.”
CM: Why are these stories so important?
CM: I think there is this passive bias that women tell “soft stories,” and that is an erroneous cliche that is partly to blame for women being kept out of the larger marketplace. These artists are digging into aspects of the female gender that, when I see and hear them revealed, make me want to cry out of sheer gratitude. Up until now, despite having worked on soaps, I haven’t seen these points of view. I haven’t seen enough of MY reality as a woman reflected back in the stories we are telling ourselves as a culture. But that’s changing now. It’s a huge and thrilling shift.
CM: Why is this so important… to see a woman’s reality reflected back via stories on stage and screen?
CM: To be a good storyteller is to know life, and to know what the culture needs to confront. A great film forces us as an audience to look at certain aspects of human nature, even when we’d rather look away. We as a culture value those storytellers because they know we need to look, they know we need to confront ourselves and they make us do it.
Women are 51% of the population. To not have their point of view, to not honor their insights is to have a culture that is out of balance. A culture that will turn in on itself, sicken and die. We can’t just look at one side of the coin. We must have women’s stories in order to have a healthy society.
The world needs more people who are willing to step forward and talk about what is going on, so we can all grow and learn together
CM: But you seem to also be saying that women tell stories that are just as raw as the stories that men tell.
CM: Yes, but it’s in a different way. I think it comes down to understanding this issue of “what is female.” It shouldn’t be confused with “what is feminine,” because “femininity” is a word with a lot of cultural layers on it. “Femininity” can suggest a passivity, and I don’t know many passive women, do you? They all seem pretty active in their lives, even if it’s by being subversive. And to address the women out there that are passive or that struggle with passivity: passivity is a behavior that is informed by fear. You’re passive when you’re afraid. I have a lot of compassion for that as I’ve known a fair share of fear in my life. I do think a lot of women have been afraid to speak out, but for many, right now we are at a tipping point where the need to be heard is stronger than the fear of staying silent.
CM: What’s so inspiring about these stories for you?
CM:The female aspect within is much deeper than gender. It’s a spiritual aspect that both sexes have. Men need to know that it’s okay to have a complex side of themselves that isn’t all action. Women need to know that they aren’t just relegated to being a sounding board. Kids need to know that they don’t have to follow entrenched gender roles, but find their own truths. Looking at the deeper female nature is a way to allow this wisdom back into the culture.
CM: So you think that women storytellers and women’s stories will help heal the world?
CM: Well, isn’t that what the best storytelling does? Make us able to consider where change is needed so we can continue to thrive as people? Even some of the most violent films, the ones that are really meaningful, like “The Departed” or “The Hurt Locker” can help make us look at our issues.
CM: Why look so deep into the issues of why stories are important? Why not just enjoy life and relax a little?
CM: I’m not sure I can answer that question. I’ve been on my own quest to continue to pursue what I feel is important. Which is to tell stories that illuminate the human experience in general, and women’s experiences in particular. And by listening to the women who have taken the road less travelled, I’m getting some incredible insights and wisdom that I am excited to share with the world.
And that’s this film at its core is about. I want to empower women and those who identity as “female” to feel less alone in their journey by showing them all the amazing artists who are fighting to tell underrepresented stories, their stories. I also hope to inspire others who want to tell these stories to take the risks toward making their dream happen. The world needs more people who are willing to step forward and talk about what is going on, so we can all grow and learn together. It feels like an amazing time of change and possibility, and I hope this film will help propel that change forward.
CM: You sound like a politician or a self-help guru! C’mon, isn’t that what you are, deep down?
CM: No, absolutely not. I’m an artist. Artist’s talk about life in their art and that’s all I’m trying to do. If what I make inspires others to think about life a little differently, or makes them laugh, or makes them want to get up and tell their own story then I’ve done my job.
Yeah. So. I’m doing a doc on women directors. Why? Well… it’s kind of a long story. The basic skinny is that it occurred to me that every once in a while I would hear about a woman director, and I’d sort of “pine” for her. Like when you hear there’s a new Jimmy Choo shoe coming out that you know you can’t afford but you’d really like to see all the same. Do you dare to look or will it make the pain of not having even worse? I know it’s sorted of effed up to compare a woman to a Jimmy Choo shoe (or is it?) but that’s how I felt. Like there were these women out there who had created something and I knew I should be closer to what they were creating… but it just kind of HURT to even think about it.
Funny thing about pain… it’s always the great motivator.
So the pain got bad enough, or the desire to be out of pain got big enough… and someone actually said, “OH MY GOD THAT’S A GREAT IDEA YOU SHOULD DO THAT” in such a way and at such a time that I said to myself… “Well, shit. I guess I should do this.”
So what happened is, my husband knew this one woman who he thought I should talk to. She’s a director named Shana Betz. We had had dinner with her a few months back and I really dug her, like a mini, unexpressed girl crush kind of dig. She was a bad ass. My husband said she might be a cool person to start talking to, so since we were already friends on FB I screwed up my courage and messaged her.
Here’s exactly what it looked like. For real.
I seriously couldn’t believe this. Almost fell out of my chair.
(Isn’t it funny how all you have to do sometimes is say “YES” to a deep idea, and th universe is right there, waiting for you?)
Okay, so I said YES in a really, um, BIG way.
(Forgive me if it offends.)
And that’s how it began… the journey has continued and I have so much more to share and to say… I’ve learned and grown so much in these past few months… but meanwhile, please join me on the FB page for this film:
And THANK YOU!
I am very excited that my second short film has been accepted into the SOHO International Film Fest in NYC. It also was accepted into the LA Film Festival, the Best Shorts Film Festival (Award of Merit), the LA Film Review (Honorable Mention Best Director), and the Indie Gathering Film Festival (Winner- Best Comedy/Drama Short).
I had such a fun time at the LA Indie Film Festival. So many wonderful pals showed up to support my work, and the audience (made up of not only my friends, but total strangers, too) laughed all through the film! What a delight!
Best of all, my wonderful husband was there to cheer me on and support the work. What a great guy!
I also got to meet this fantastic interviewer, who did a terrific in-depth interview with me after the screening.
I am so thrilled to share with you that my second short film has been accepted into a highly respected festival in Hollywood, the LA Indie Film Fest.
If you are in the LA area and would like to join me at the screening, here is a link that will take you to the website where you can buy tickets. The screening will be within a block of other short films, and there will be a Q&A with the attending filmmakers afterwords.
Date: Saturday, March 7th, 2015 (this is a correction!)
Place: The Actors Company, 916 N. Formosa Hollywood, CA 90046
Tickets: LA Indie Film Fest
Thank you for all of your support!
I firmly believe in “cleaning out one’s closets” both internally and externally. That said, I can’t seem to ever get mine clean ENOUGH. Argh. I’m constantly finding “treasures” that I simply can’t part with… that is, until I force myself to “get real” about what I really “need” (which is generally not so much crap!)
While on a storage unit purge recently, I found a letter from one of my distant relatives, a cousin of my mom’s, written to her. She told my mom what an impressive “creative” she was, detailing how she was talented in drawing, painting, writing, etc. This relative was also an artist in her own right, a collage artist, so I was struck by what a lovely, encouraging compliment this was.
I was also struck by the awareness that I, too, am a multi-tasking creative. I write books and music; write, direct and produce films; make my own collages; and of course, act. I am better at some of these arts than others. Trust me, more than once in my life have I thought, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” But I try to ignore that voice and putter about in whatever art seems to be calling to me at the time. Now I try and focus on the fact that my mom passed on this gift, and that I should treasure it and be grateful.
In the last year of my mom’s life she gave me another gift: a copy of the book “The Artist’s Way.” If you read my book, “Murdering My Youth,” you know my mom had some issues (to put it lightly), but this book made a huge difference for her. I would’ve loved to have seen how it changed her life even more, but sadly her time on earth ran out. Still, I was so grateful for the changes this book made in her that I picked it up myself. Wanting to stay connected to the best in her, I went through the lessons in “The Artist’s Way” not once, not twice, but three times. I still go back to it again and again for reminders of how to negotiate treacherous creative waters; how to re-inspire myself; and how to create a life where I felt safe to create. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
My belief after years of making art of all kinds, is that all arts come from a similar place within us, and all arts are meant to connect us, to make us think as human beings about our experience here on earth. This is why I continue to work, because I love that feeling of taking something from within my imagination or experience and feeling that connection.
My latest short film is all about connection: the loss of it, the fear of it, the desire for it. I don’t know if I have ever worked so hard as I did directing and producing this latest project. Films are not only expensive to produce, but time and labor intensive. They are also a collaboration amongst artists in all kinds of arenas: from the color correction to working with actors, it’s always an experience of talents mingling.
I suppose you could say each project I do is like me taking a bunch of stuff out of my closet, putting it together in a way that tickles me, and then sharing it. First with the other artists I work with, and then with the audience.
It means a lot to me that the artists who accept my invitation to work together have a good experience. I think I can say without reservation that I’ve found a truly amazing and talented crew. But it also means a lot to me that the audience keeps coming back to me to hear what I’ve discovered, to see how I’ve put together something that quite possibly is not just a private moment for me revealed, but a universal experience we all share, and perhaps feel a little embarrassed about.
So thank you for watching my work, and connecting with me. Thank you for joining me on this journey of creative discovery. It means the world and I am so grateful.
One question I have been asked often recently is this:
“After years of childhood misery and years of unhappy, unsuccessful adult relationships, how did you manage to change it all and ALSO find a great guy?”
Basically they are asking me, “How did you get happy?”
The simple answer is: I realized I was the common factor in my unhappiness, and changed my choices.
Here I refer to three bits of wisdom a therapist once gave me. (Did I mention he’s Italian?)
PITHY ADVICE FROM THERAPIST #1
He said something like this:
“You walk into a bar. You see a person at the bar you’re really attracted to. S/he’s got that “spark” that all the other people you once loved (and went through hell with) also had. Walk over to where s/he is sitting, TURN AROUND, AND TALK TO THE PERSON STANDING NEXT TO THEM.”
I never forgot the simplicity of this advice. The message is: what is familiar may be a “draw” for you. “Spark” may resonate with all the hope of finally fixing your love life, or maybe even your childhood, but when you go down that path… you usually get drama. Despair. Frustration… and end up back on the usual emotional merry-go-round. What to do?
TURN AROUND AND TALK TO SOMEONE YOU WOULDN’T CHOOSE.
Yeah, yeah, I know…
But look. If you are like I was, your “picker” is broken. You simply have to look around at all the people you are not currently picking.
So be brave! Say hi to someone you might not have. You never know where it could take you. Honestly, it’s how I met the love of my life.
Speaking of which…
PITHY AND REMARKABLY USEFUL TID-BIT FROM THERAPIST #2
…went something like this:
“Take a pencil and a piece of paper. Draw a simple circle. Make a point in the middle of the circle. Now draw a line from the point in the center of the circle to any point on the outside of the circle. (This is a lot easier than I am making it sound.) Now draw a second line from the center point maybe 3 degrees from the first line.
If you kept on drawing those lines further and further out, they’d end up really far apart from each other.
Line ONE is the path you are on.
Line TWO is where the new choice takes you. Just 3 degrees of change can make you end up far away then where you were headed.”
BETTER CHOICES + TIME = NEW LIFE.
PITHY AND SURPRISINGLY USEFUL ADVICE FROM SHRINK #3
“Here’s your homework. Go home and WATCH JUDGE JUDY.”
Seriously… my therapist told me to watch Judge Judy. When I did, I realized that I was being really “wishy-washy” in my life, giving some people FAR too much credit, and definitely not standing up for myself. I needed a New York Overhaul and JJ was just the lady to help me out. I can’t say it worked overnight, so if you are shy, like I used to be, repeated viewing is highly suggested.
Finally, in order to accomplish any goal, all you really need is one attribute. I think this ONE THING is what separates those who change their lives from those who never do.
WILLINGNESS. If you are willing to change, or can cultivate the willingness to change, then you can change your life. I admit, sometimes I know what I have to do in order to change, I’m just not willing to do it. But at least I am 100% clear that I am choosing to NOT be willing. The willingness to change sometimes comes slowly and is usually accompanied by great pain, and pain… well, pain sucks. But enough of it sure can make you willing to change.
I am overwhelmed.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, e-mail, messages, and texts are an endless part of my everyday life now. Then there are the “apps” that are supposed to help me maximize every moment in my life: I get news blasts from Stitcher, alerts from Huffington Post, reminders from The New York Times, and updates from Tumblr. And let us not forget online shopping. I can spend hours drooling over sales on handbags, jewelry, makeup, and images of the latest and least affordable “haute couture.”
I feel bombarded by all this information, useful or no, a slave to the communication culture that consists of everyone shouting at the top of their lungs “LISTEN TO ME” and mostly saying nothing at all. Sometimes I don’t want to add one more note to this cacophony of noise-less verbiage, not unless I have something I really, NEED to say.
So here goes:
Make your life worth living starting NOW. Turn off the TV. Step away from the computer. Stop worrying about money. Get out in nature. Take a walk. Plant a flower or a tree. Help an old person cross the street. Don’t forget to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” because being polite is never out of fashion. Learn to cook: it is an art form for a reason and will satisfy you more than you can imagine right now. Read ONE really good book at a time, on paper. We need less screens in our life. Make a list of five goals and hold yourself to them. Self-discipline breeds self-esteem. Write “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” on a sticky note and tape it to your mirror. Stop worrying about what other people think and find out what YOU think. Then do something about it. Take yourself to a museum, alone. If you don’t like your own company how can you expect anyone else to? Drink more water and less soda. I promise you it will make you feel much better. Be kind to animals even if you are allergic. Go shopping in your closet. There’s great stuff hiding in there. Don’t cut your hair when you are feeling depressed or anxious. Same goes for calling your mother. Let go of “high maintenance people,” they are sucking up all your creative energy. Call one old friend just to see how they are doing. It will be the best conversation you will have all day. Make a list of ten things you love and put in on the fridge. It’s the best diet in the world. Remember that everyone suffers, everyone cries, everyone has a bad day sometimes, and everyone needs love. You are not alone. The choices you make about how to live your life make an impact on every person you meet. Think about who you want to be and then be that person. Fear is your only enemy. Think of what you would say to a child and then say that to yourself. When in doubt, be kind. Forgive as many people as you can but don’t forget. There’s no purpose in being a doormat but no grace in being righteous. Let go or be dragged. Sing loudly, even if you can’t hold a tune and laugh at yourself as often as possible, it’s a great feeling.
A lady friend of mine asked me recently how I felt about personal responses to my book.
“Do you get triggered?” She asked politely. We were at a dinner party and I could tell she was trying to be sensitive to certain topics I write about. Abuse, alcoholism, and dysfunction aren’t exactly super fun dinner conversation.
“What do you mean?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what she was trying to figure out.
“When people tell you about their pain… does it bother you? You know, bring it all back?” I was beginning to wonder if she might have something she wanted to share.
“Occasionally I despair for our species,” I laughed, “But when people feel compelled to share their stories with me (whether in person on online), I am really very honored. I think of their impulse to share with me as a sacred trust. But it doesn’t upset me. Not at all. And since I finished the book, my past is just a story for me. It’s a true story, and my story, but it’s just a story. (Thank God). EVERYONE has a story.”
But this conversation got me thinking. Since everyone has a story, that means everyone suffers. It is simply a fact of human life. How we choose to deal with our suffering is what creates our character.
Some people like to hold their suffering close to their heart. They nurture it as if it were a precious plant they were keeping alive. I have heard many, many people say something like this: “I will never forget what so-and-so did. It will always echo in my mind.” I’ve said it myself! I take this to be a sign of two things:
1) That the event that occurred was traumatic
2) That the person holding onto the trauma might (unknowingly) be defining themselves by that event.
So it doesn’t sound like I’m being judgmental here, let me tell you how I know this is true. If you read my book, you will know I had a crap load of craziness to deal with. Even though I later figured out I had all the symptoms of PTSD, I couldn’t think of myself as a survivor because I hated the word. It still seemed so limiting to define my whole self in relation to a past I could do nothing about. But I couldn’t think of myself as someone who HADN’T gone through these humiliations. That would be a lie.
I was in a pickle. How could I define myself WITHOUT my past informing everything?
Then I had an idea, inspired by a saying from 12-step meetings: “We will know a NEW freedom and a NEW happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it…”
I loved the word “freedom.” It rang in me like a bell for years. Could I find freedom from the pain I was feeling AND freedom from the past? Could that be possible? I didn’t know, but it was an idea that compelled me to go forward and at least try.
Deep down, I knew I was a fighter. I was tough, without a doubt, but I didn’t want to approach life as a battle, always having to fight off this or that asshole. I decided that the best way to describe myself was as a spiritual warrior fighting an internal war. This worked for me. Every day I would go to war against my internal pain and memory of my past.
Having grown up on the TV series “Kung-Fu,” I remembered there were students, deciples, and masters. I decided that I would stay a student, endlessly willing to be taught, until I really had something to pass on. I decided that going forward, no matter what, everything that happened in my life, and everyone I met would be a teacher.
My pain? A teacher. My past? A teacher. My body, my anger, my fear? A teacher. Even my resistance to being taught would be a teacher.
When I looked at my life from this perspective, I found myself in a position of choice as to how to think about myself. I could choose to feel at the effect of another’s behavior, or make another choice.
When I chose to fight for my peace of mind, to find the wisdom in the pain, I was actually fighting for my FREEDOM from that pain.
Now I do this as often as possible. Sometimes I forget (hey, I’m only human) but as soon as I can remember to it gets me out of pain and into FREEDOM from pain, which I like to describe as peace of mind.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say I get an uncomfortable feeling: a blast from the past, a moment of shame, loss, grief, or fear I will be attacked unjustly. Or say I suddenly feel deeply judgmental of myself, and I’m no longer “enough” in any category. (You know how the mind turns on itself. It can be such an a-hole!)
Instead of fighting the thought, I say, “Hello teacher. What do you have for me to learn right now?”
Usually, the upsetting thought says something like this, “Oh, I just wanted you to know that I was here.”
Then I say, “Okay. I recognize you. Perhaps you need something. Do you?”
And sometimes it needs a hug, or for me to cuddle in a blanket and watch TV. Then I do that.
Sometimes, however, it just wants me to know it’s there.
That’s when I say, “Okay. I hear you. Don’t stress. I got this. I can handle almost anything, remember? I’m a warrior.”
And that seems to do the trick.